Omi Velasco is originally from Colombia. She started her career working with Deloitte in their consulting practices in Canada and the U.S. Afterward, she worked with a Canadian Family Office that had operations in Mexico in the hospitality industry.
She and her partner started to do angel investments in technology companies about five years ago. “We were very fortunate that some of those investments worked very well for us. So we decided to formalize the process and we started a venture capital fund,” she told LABS.
Co-investing with leading investors in Seed stage companies in Canada, she started to look for companies to invest in Latin America when the pandemic started as everything went virtual.
“A relative started a restaurant in Colombia and I was looking for a solution to her business. A lot of the solutions were very archaic, like very old systems that you had to install in your computer, or they were very expensive, so I was looking for something easy, cool, and inexpensive.”
After trying several SaaS platforms for restaurants, Velasco met Pirpos, a 5-year old platform for the food and beverage small and medium-sized businesses in Latin America to manage their restaurants. “We liked the team operating in Colombia and I decided to approach the founder [Luis Fernando Avila Manjarrés].”
Velasco’s fund was the first one to invest in Pirpos. After she joined the company’s board, she got so actively involved in the startup that she decided to come to the other side of the table and join Pirpos as a co-founder.
“It was a pretty seamless move because I was already so involved with the previous team. We basically restarted the company with a new strategy, new vision, we grew the team and our client base.”
That happened between April and June, and now the startup has 1,500 restaurants using its platform mainly in Colombia, but Velasco says the plan is to start selling in other countries such as Mexico and Ecuador.
For that, the company is seeking financing and thus, human capital as well to add on to the 33 employees. Fabian Gosselin, the CEO at Alsea, a Mexican multi-brand restaurant operator, recently joined Pirpos as a mentor.
“We’re trying to help the small and midsize businesses, the ones that are in a very informal industry, that lack financial resources,” says Velasco.
Pirpos’ management plan covers products with a digital menu, inventory management, and reports, and offers integrations with delivery apps such as iFood and Rappi for another $2 for each integration. It is also launching a website to connect “the front end with the back-office operations”, as Velasco says. “Our clients are kind of using Wix or another solution, and then putting it [the menu] manually, so that doesn’t make sense. We are very excited to launch that front-side of the business.”
As the pandemic hit, the number of dark kitchens – that sort of co-working of restaurants – soared. “It has been very interesting because we have a lot of clients that come in and they say, this is my restaurant, however, I sell three different brands.”
Pirpos says it has been able to adapt to those changes in the industry and help the customers so that they can have more control over the inventory. Pirpos’ platform is proactive, since it shows if restaurants are running low on ingredients, and notifies if they should order anything.
“In the last couple of months as the restrictions started to ease, especially in Colombia, some things started to grow faster for us as well.”